ie8toolbarMany of you have now gotten Internet Explorer 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s web browser. The rest of you can expect to see it soon, as it is pushed out through the Automatic Update system. (You’ve got IE8 if you have some extra buttons next to the “Favorites” button for “Suggested Sites” and “Get More Add-Ons.”) Here’s what I wrote about IE8 and its new features last month.

It’s not widely known that IE8 has an feature called “InPrivate Filtering” that can be used as a very effective ad blocker.

When InPrivate Filtering is turned on (click on Safety / InPrivate Filtering, or hit Ctrl-Shift-F), it begins watching the web sites you visit for material that is repeated on more than one site. After a certain number of appearances, the filter begins to block that content, on the theory that behind the scenes something might be sharing information about your browsing habits. Advertisements fit that description very nicely.

Under the hood, InPrivate Filtering is assembling a list of little tracking web parts – URLs, GIFs, little scripts and all the other things that track you and generate ads. You can manually add a list that includes the URLs supplying most online advertisements and poof! Big empty spaces on most web pages in place of ads.

There are many lists available online but you should be the teensiest bit anxious about downloading a file from a post by somebody on an online forum who might or might not be a well-meaning teenager. Right? So let me give you one that I’ve checked out – download this file and save it somewhere. (The source is this forum post back in March. There are probably more complete lists now but this will be enough to get started, I think.)

In Internet Explorer 8, click on Tools / Manage Add-Ons, click the InPrivate Filtering button, then click the Import button and find the downloaded XML file. When the list is imported, hit Ctrl-Shift-F to turn on InPrivate Filtering and start browsing. It should be immediately obvious that ads are missing, frequently leaving empty blank space on a web page. In a few cases, web pages will not display correctly but that hasn’t been a big problem in my experience.

InPrivate Filtering always has to be turned on manually when you start Internet Explorer 8. There is no easy setting to turn it on permanently. Here’s one site that has created small files to change a registry setting and turn InPrivate Filtering on by default so it runs every time you get online. The files are legitimate but I don’t know if there are any side effects. If it was harmless, I’d expect Microsoft to have made it easy to turn this on by default. I’d just as soon have you remember to Ctrl-Shift-F instead of mucking around in the registry.

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